We gave it a B
In these two new country retrospectives The Essential Ray Carl Smith 1950-1956 and The Essential Ray Price 1951-1962, Columbia inadvertently calls attention to another past master who never recorded for the label: Hank Williams. It was Williams whom both Smith and Price emulated on their first records in the ’50s, although each eventually developed his own style and became acclaimed in his own right. Smith, now best known as the father of Carlene Carter, was a solid country hit maker throughout that decade. His smooth vocals on such records as ”Go Boy Go,” ”Back Up Buddy,” and ”Loose Talk” went a good way toward bridging the chasm between honky-tonk and then-burgeoning rock & roll. Price, with a keen eye for trends and writers, was successful into the ’80s, moving up from straightforward honky-tonk and Williams imitations (”I Can’t Go Home Like This”) to find a niche as a consummate balladeer (”Release Me”) and as the inventor of the ”Ray Price beat,” a shuffle rhythm underscored with drums, a walking bass, and a single-string fiddle technique (”Crazy Arms”). Dozens of younger performers have borrowed from Smith and, especially, from Price, yet Smith and Price are rarely heard today, perhaps because their sounds have been so neatly woven into the fabric of mainstream country music. These albums, refreshingly, prove the lasting influence of these two men.